In any one year the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) receives around 22,000 planning appeals across the country. Of those around 19,000 are dealt with via written representations. The remainder are dealt with via other appeal routes such as hearings or public enquiry. The route depends on the complexity of the case and the need to test the facts of the case to allow an inspector to come to an informed decision.
We probably all know someone who has applied for planning permission and who has said the phrase “and if it gets refused…we will just go to appeal”. Many people are not aware of the fact that statistics from PINS, over the last four years, show that of the planning appeals submitted those which are allowed only total around 30%. This is a statistic which I would say many agents, and indeed appellants, are not aware of. Your chances at appeal are, therefore, only likely if you can present a robustly prepared and well evidenced case to put before your inspector.
Whilst local authorities may have an obligation to work positively and proactively with applicants, the role of an inspector is very different. Their role is to review the evidence and case before them and reach a conclusion based on that, and that only. They have no requirement to determine outside of what is submitted by the parties involved. This means putting everything in front of an inspector, which you wish to base your argument upon, is crucial.
There are several types of appeal – some carry strong consequences with inspectors being issued with powers which appellants, and agents, are not often aware of. For example, in some types of appeals against conditions/condition variation – the inspector has the power to review the original consent and could, in extreme cases, remove the entire planning consent leaving the appellant with nothing. Though rare it is a consequence which is possible as a result of the powers given to inspectors by the Secretary of State.
If you have been faced with a decision, and are considering/preparing planning appeals, the following points are worth considering:
- What are the main issues which the appeal needs to address – can you robustly address the reasons for refusal and present a justified argument to an inspector. Do not submit an appeal if you are just hoping someone may take a different view – you must evidence why a different view should, in your opinion, be taken;
- The fact that someone else has done something similar somewhere else is not a standalone argument. There must be strong similarities between the cases and remember changes in policy could mean that something which was once acceptable is no longer (and vice versa). If you are submitting evidence of similar developments – you must include the information for the inspector. Inclusion of an application/appeal reference only is not good enough and will carry little weight in a decision. If you want it considered, put the full evidence before an inspector but remember each case is judge upon its own merits;
- If you are relying on items such as Section 106 agreements these must be completed, agreed and signed and with an inspector to carry any weight;
- Consider whether you could you amend the scheme and address the issues raised through a re-submission with the local authority to completely avoid appeal altogether;
- Focus on the quality of the argument – not quantity. Throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at it in the hope something will stick will not assist you in putting together a succinct, justified argument.
The statistics at the start of this blog show that there are many thousands of planning appeals submitted each year which are unsuccessful. It should lead agents, and appellants, to consider whether their proposal is actually contrary to the planning policy at time and whether an appeal is necessary.
If you are considering going to appeal – professional advice, or a thorough reading of the appeal procedure guidance, is an absolute must.